Ashley Neese is a a certified breathwork teacher and energy healer, and a Wanderlust mentor.
Self-love is a popular topic in the wellness community. The Buddha himself said that “You yourself, as much as anyone else in the universe, deserve your love and affection.” We come to the mat and practice meditation, asana, and breathwork as a way to delve deeper, to form a lasting and nurturing relationship with ourselves as an essential step to forming substantial connections with others. And yet self-love remains a struggle for much of the world. The question remains: How do we continually choose to love ourselves unconditionally, especially when we feel shame?
To face our deepest pains—the ones that continually keep us mired in an inability to self-love, that keep us living with feelings of shame and doubt—an increasing number of people are turning to complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). Techniques such as breathwork, yoga, and energy healing have long been embraced by the mindful community, and as these enter the mainstream, teachers like Ashley Neese are able to create spaces for newcomers to step inside and explore the connections of unconditional self-love.
We sat down with Ashley to talk to her about her personal journey towards embracing all that she is: the light, the shadow, and all of the beauty in between.
Your workshops emphasize the importance and power of self-love. Can you tell us about your journey towards loving yourself wholly?
My journey towards self-love has been years in the making. It began at the young age of 21 when I committed to sobriety, to living my life as awake as possible. Today the foundation of my practice is to love myself and keep my heart open even when I am scared or want to withdraw. Loving myself fully means showing up for each moment with compassion, tenderness, and a willingness to lean into whatever arises.
Why do you think it is so hard for people, particularly women, to love and accept themselves?
There are many reasons and a large one is that we live in a culture that constantly tells women we are not OK and lovable exactly as we are. There lack of self love is an epidemic in our culture and I am excited to be part of changing the conversation and supporting women to feel into their power and claim their worth on all levels.
When you think of the word “beauty” what comes to mind?
I am very drawn to the Navajo practice, The Beauty Way, which is about restoring balance and beauty in each waking moment. The Beauty Way is a spiritual invitation to be in harmony with everything: plants, feelings, nature, each other, objects, the environment. It’s a way to infuse every aspect of our lives with attention, creativity, love, and understanding.
Today may I walk out in beauty.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty around me, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty. – Navajo Prayer
What are 3 self care practices one can perform to inspire self-love when it feels difficult to feel that love?
- Place your hand on your heart and repeat the phrase, ‘dear one I am here for you.’
- Say what you are grateful for out loud. Repeat this until you feel a shift.
- Spend time in nature and with animals.
Who are your biggest role models?
My brother, my friends, Amma, Thich Nhat Hanh, Brené Brown, Cheryl Strayed, and The Dalai Lama.
If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Enjoy yourself more, worry less, spend more time with people that light you up, and see as much as of the world as you can.
Erin Ward is a freelance writer, yoga teacher, and navigator at Wanderlust Hollywood.